Monday, November 10, 2014

Authenticity speciality

I was recently approached by Webucator to write about the most important marketable skill that is required for graduates in search of their first job after studies, and it made me reflect on my own experiences in job interviews. I can remember attempting to predict what employers would want in an employee, which conjured up images of a cookie-cutter clone of the ‘perfect worker’. Perhaps this conceptualisation filters down from as far back as expectations of work from the Industrial Revolution (thanks, first-year Psychology); just as products moved along a prediactable assembly line, employees were expected to “fit in or ship out.”

I was recently on the opposite side of the table – part of an interviewing team gathered to meet potential facilitators who would take over my role next year as I embrace my Educational Psychology internship in 2015. A facilitator’s role is to work alongside the teacher in the classroom to assist a learner (usually in a one-to-one scenario) in whatever manner is appropriate to the learner’s specific need, and as such it is fairly important to ensure that the facilitator is a good match for the child, the teacher, as well as the classroom and school environment. Before the candidates arrived, we spoke about what ‘type’ of facilitator the group had in mind. My role in this meeting was to describe the facilitation scenario with the lovely little boy whom I had helped to support this year, and to share some of the strategies that I had used when facilitating. What really struck me was how our idea of a ‘type’ of candidate appeared to dissipate as we met the various potential facilitators. It became obvious that each one brought various skills and challenges to the table, and although it was the combination of these that influenced our opinion of their suitability for the position, it was the energy and sincerity with which the candidates expressed their skills and challenges that really stood out. It was the candidates who were able to genuinely express their passion for education and children in an authentic way that caught our attention – especially in the stories that they told of personal experiences. 

The very first candidate was a young woman who did not have as much experience in education as some of the other candidates, but she impressed with her authentic manner in which she conveyed her experiences; both the shining and learning opportunities. She had put together a really personal CV and cover letter, which showed that she had considered the requirements of the position as well as the environment in which she would be working. She made sure that her personality shone through, and it was this authenticity that really won us over. She didn’t attempt to conform to the ‘perfect candidate’ stereotype – she presented herself as an authentic version of herself.

In essence, after this experience I would say that the best marketable skill that a graduate could portray is the ability to convey oneself in an authentic manner. In this way, your employer is afforded a snapshot of how you would conduct yourself in your job, and is able to make a realistic decision of your suitability for the position. As such, my vote would go to the candidate who is authentic – not a real-life clone of the ‘perfect worker.’